To get better balance, power and agility, kickboxing is king among workouts. Experts who have studied the sport say nearly everyone—even older people who might shy away from such things—can benefit from throwing a punch.
Unlike most other types of exercise, kickboxing emphasizes powerful movements. Power is different from strength, and for older adults, it’s an even better predictor of mobility and their risk for falls, says Kurt Jackson, an associate professor of neurology and rehab science at the University of Dayton in Ohio. “Pure strength is what a weightlifter uses, but producing power is about both force and speed,” he says.
Kickboxing training tends to involve shorts bouts, two to three minutes long, of intense, repetitive movement—like hitting a punching bag over and over again and kicking and kneeing a pad someone else is holding. “If you look at the research on high-intensity interval training [HIIT], you see these short, intense periods of activity can have big benefits,” he says. Some research shows that even very brief stretches—just 60 seconds—of HIIT can offer the same gains in heart and lung health as 45 minutes of less-intense exercise.
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